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They survive in us, and they can serve us as we serve them in our own bad times, knowing that something of us too will last, even if the worst happens, even so.Justice in Aeschylus' The Oresteia How can an endless and violently destructive cycle be just?Let’s think of times in human history when, even after the worst has happened, people have done the right thing.” She mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa without which, she maintains, that country would be in a state of perpetual civil war, embroiled in a bitter past they could never escape.
The concept appears in places along the human timeline as diverse as the Bible and West Side Story.
Why do people have a tendency to amplify and repeat violence through a cycle of murder and revenge, and how can this destructive process be called justice?
It is simply about gathering in a public space open to all. And in so doing, we, all of us, recognize each other.
Everyone concerned, both the victims and the perpetrators of the violence, is present. It’s an ancient concept, a Greek one in fact, that notion that in recognizing each other in all our confusion, pain, and jagged moments of violence and cruelty, bravery and kindness, we draw ourselves back to the circle of what we share, what gives us a stake in each other, our happiness and our enlightenment.
Clytomnestra’s actions certainly qualify as revenge, but it is perhaps not as strong a case because the Greeks could clearly see the reason behind the sacrifice of Iphigenia.
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In contrast, the murder of Agamemnon is much more devious, with an air of deception and trickery.
More often it kicks off a cycle of violence, which leads to even more hate, death and injustice.
The Libation Bearers is the true story of vengeance in the Oresteia.
Athens in her ancient glory may have fallen, as her playwrights and poets always warned she might, but the scent of her lingers all these centuries hence with the handful of plays we are still marveling at.
The world has kept some of that beauty and the memory of her best dreams.